Prep Softball

Cedar Rapids Kennedy makes it worth the wait in regional softball final

Rain delays 5A regional final 2 1/2 hours, then Cougars blank Prairie, 6-0

CEDAR RAPIDS — Before answering questions, Maddison LeClere asked one of her own:

“What time is it, anyway?

How about 11:20 p.m.? Or, if you prefer, winning time.

Third-ranked Cedar Rapids Kennedy plated six runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and romped past Cedar Rapids Prairie, 6-0, in a Class 5A softball regional final late Tuesday night at Kennedy High School.

The rally started with a squeeze (from Sam Scheck, with the bases loaded), ended with bang (a three-run double by Kaylin Kinney) and sent the Cougars (37-2) to the state tournament.

“It feels incredible,” Kinney said. “I’m pretty sure that I won’t have a voice tomorrow.”

Kennedy will face No. 6 Iowa City High (34-7) in a 5A quarterfinal at 7:30 p.m. next Tuesday at Rogers Sports Complex, Fort Dodge. The Little Hawks got past Dubuque Hempstead, 2-0, Tuesday.

For a while, it appeared unlikely that the Cougars would play Tuesday, let alone win.

A small but mighty cell of rain moved into Cedar Rapids around 6:30, and it poured until about 7:15.

Once the rain stopped, an army of about 20 Kennedy coaches and parents brought out their rakes, shovels and Diamond Dry.

First pitch was at 9:26.

“We stayed pumped,” Kinney said. “Everybody was still up to play. We were ready.”

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Prairie (29-12) actually outhit the Cougars by a 4-2 margin through the first three innings. The Hawks had a bases-loaded opportunity in the top of the third before a groundout ended the threat.

Then, in the fourth, the Cougars took control.

With one out, eight consecutive batters reached base.

Mary Krystofiak singled, Izzy Wright walked and Lizzy Dennis reached on an infield single to load the bases.

The No. 9 batter, Scheck was summoned to squeeze, no matter that there was a force at home.

“If we could squeeze one run across, I thought maybe we’d win a one-run game,” LeClere said. “Then she showed bunt about 30 years too early. (The Hawks) probably thought she was going to pull back and hit.”

Nope.

“I just had to get it down for the team and not to the pitcher,” Scheck said. “I thought it was going to roll foul.”

Instead, Krystofiak beat the throw home, and the Cougars were on the board.

Then Addie Parker walked to make it 2-0. Carlee Smith reached on an error to send home another run, and with the bases still loaded, the Hawks had to abandon the intentional-walk-to-Kinney strategy that the majority of teams employ.

Kinney hit a 3-1 pitch off the center-field wall, three runs scored, and suddenly, Fort Dodge didn’t seem so distant.

A junior headed to the University of Nebraska, Kinney finished with a nine-strikeout five-hitter, notching the Cougars’ 21st shutout of the season, their fifth in a row.

Kennedy beat Prairie three times this season by margins of 7-0, 1-0 and 6-0.

“With our pitching, I have all the confidence in the world,” LeClere said. “Kaylin got out of a little jam there in the third, but she has worked out of jams with little to no damage all year.”

Amaya Snyder had two hits for Prairie.

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Not all of the news was good for Kennedy on Tuesday. Shortstop Alyssa Martin left the game with an apparent knee injury, forcing LeClere to shuffle the left side of her infield defense. Martin’s availability for state should be known Wednesday.

CEDAR RAPIDS KENNEDY 6, CEDAR RAPIDS PRAIRIE 0

5A Regional Final, at C.R. Kennedy

C.R. Prairie 000 000 0 — 0 5 2

C.R. Kennedy 000 600 x — 6 7 1

Payton Akers, Riley Sauser (4) and Jensyn Jones. Kaylin Kinney and Abby Spore. W — Kinney (20-0). L — Akers (15-5).

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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